HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Home buyers’ letters ‘banned’? Not really

Written November 29th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The Oregon State Capitol Building, where the legislature passed HB 2550 this year.

If you’re selling a house in Albany or anywhere else in Oregon after next Jan. 1, you may be hearing about a new law that supposedly bans would-be home buyers’ so-called “love letters.” But the law does no such thing.

In the real estate business, apparently it sometimes happens that people hoping to buy a house send the owners a letter describing how much they like the place, how their family would thrive there, and so forth. The idea is to make their bid stand out among competing offers.

During the 2021 regular session, somebody persuaded our legislators that such letters could lead sellers to discriminate based on race and various grounds. So they passed House Bill 2550.

A group of real estate agents in Bend now has filed suit in federal court, challenging the law as a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

Here’s what the law actually says: “In order to help a seller avoid selecting a buyer based on the buyer’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status or familial status as prohibited by the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.), a seller’s agent shall reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer.”

(The clumsy construction implies that photos of buyers are part of customary real estate documents, and therefore allowed, contrary to the legislation’s intent.)

This section now is part of the law that regulates the duties of sellers’ real estate agents. It takes effect Jan. 1. You will notice that it does not apply to buyers at all. It does not seek to prevent buyers from doing anything, including writing letters to anyone, or enclosing photos with such letters.

All the law does is require licensed agents acting on behalf of sellers to refuse to accept such letters or to pass them on. But assuming that buyers know the address of the place they want to buy, there’s nothing to keep them from writing to the owners on their own. (hh)





10 responses to “Home buyers’ letters ‘banned’? Not really”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Good point about a buyer sending a ‘love letter’ directly to the seller.

    But this form of censorship must go down in flames on First Amendment grounds, so the lawsuit is needed.

    Where is the evidence of discrimination?

    The bill’s sponsor, when asked whether such letters lead to discrimination, replied, “Maybe not.” But the “D’s” passed the bill anyway.

    The reality – Discrimination will be felt most by buyers who have difficulty competing against buyers of greater means.

    With this law buyers who offer cash without contingencies will be at a greater advantage than buyers who have a compelling story but must get a mortgage and clear some hurdles before finalizing the deal.

    This law makes it easier for the rich to win. Is that fair?

    • HowlingCicada says:

      If you really want the rich to not always be the winners of everything, the place to do it is tax law.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Who’s first amendment rights are at risk? Be specific Gordon. Because NOTHING effects free speech rights. It’s NOT censorship.

      Here is a portion from the National Association of Realtors – you can read the whole article from the link.

      “Before the next time you are faced with a buyer love letter, consider these best practices to protect yourselves and your clients from fair housing liability:

      “Educate your clients about the fair housing laws and the pitfalls of buyer love letters.
      Inform your clients that you will not deliver buyer love letters, and advise others that no buyer love letters will be accepted as part of the MLS listing.

      “Remind your clients that their decision to accept or reject an offer should be based on objective criteria only.

      “If your client insists on drafting a buyer love letter, do not help your client draft or deliver it.

      “Document all offers received and the seller’s objective reason for accepting an offer.”

      https://www.nar.realtor/fair-housing-corner/love-letters-or-liability-letters

      It’s about protecting both Seller and Buyer from potentially serious financial exposure. If the buyer goes ahead and does it anyway, they then assume full personal liability of a potential judgement because they have been clearly warned.

      Then you write this:
      “The reality – Discrimination will be felt most by buyers who have difficulty competing against buyers of greater means.”

      WOW! The rich have more money than the poor. It’s called the Free Market. So if you’re opposed to that you must have decided to become a Socialist. Don’t bother on becoming a Democrat because 1) We’re not socialists, and 2) You’re not our type.

      You’re skating on no ice.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Whose First Amendment rights are at risk? Well, obviously the rights of brokers and their clients.

        Look, this law is simply a gag order on agents.

        What is the compelling reason for suppressing this type of speech? There is none.

        Neither the Oregon legislature or the NAR can point to a single Fair Housing claim arising from a love letter.

        Can you?

        • Bob Woods says:

          Nothing stops anyone from writing and sending a letter. Can’t you read what was written?

          I guess not.

  2. Delfina says:

    This is happening in many states. When I sold my Dad’s house in California there was a bidding war and letters written.

  3. HowlingCicada says:

    “””The idea is to make their bid stand out among competing offers.”””

    It wouldn’t surprise me if there already exists an industry to write such “love letters,” with or without honest content, sort of like the crooks who write essays for students.

  4. James Engel says:

    I’ll sell our home to ever the hell I want! This is just another “over reach” by government to peck away at our rights. This is what our state legislators give us in the name of representing us?? Like the Queen in “Alice In Wonderland” shouted…Off with thar heads is my feelings!

  5. Henry Lightcap says:

    What is to stop sellers from using their door camera to see who is touring their home? One could even listen to prospective buyers. The love letters are annoying but I don’t see how prohibiting them would fix racism or any other problem.

  6. Lundy says:

    I’m all for fair housing, and fairness in general, but we have too many laws in this state.

 

 
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